Buy A Professional Highdefinition Video Camera

Buy a Professional High-Definition Video Camera

Buy a Professional High-Definition Video Camera. In another posting, I covered the ins and outs of buying an HDV camcorder. Although the manufacturers would describe HDV as a professional format, in this article we’ll look at high-end alternatives that would be typically used in series television production or for feature films. Prices here are for reference only, and unless noted do not include any accessories or lenses.


1. Look into HD CAM. This format was introduced by Sony in 1997 as an HD Version of Digital Betacam. In its first incarnation, HD Cam was a 4:1:1 format with a bit rate of 144 MB/s.

HDCAM SR was introduced in 2003. It uses a higher density tape and records in 10 bits at 4:2:2 color sampling or in full 4:4:4 RGB at a bit rate of 440 Mb/s. For a great look at the format’s capability, check out George Lucas’ “Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones.” It was the first major studio motion picture to be shot entirely on HD without any film in the process at all. Lucas used the HDC-F950 HD camera, recording on the HDCAM portable recorder (SRW-1) and the studio recorder (SRW-5000) on BCT-SR tape.

The F23 is the latest CineAlta film style camera capturing full 1920×1080 pixels on 3 2/3 inch chips with a choice of frame rates from 1 to 60P in full 4:4:4 RGB. It can record to hard drive and tape simulaneously. It replaces the HDC-F950 camera with enhanced highlight handling and gamma control. It rents for $3000 a day at Band Pro, and is available for purchase. Expect to spend well past $100K for it.

2. Don’t side-step the Viper. Thompson’s Viper FilmStream Camera uses three 9.2-million pixel CCDs to capture 4:4:4 RGB color in 10-bit RAW data without electronic camera signal processing. The camera’s aspect ratio is either 16:9 or wide screen 2.37:1. It records in 1080P or 1080i at 24, 25, 50 and 60 fps. The Viper is best know for being used as the primary camera on Michael Mann’s “Miami Vice” movie. Vipers can be purchased for around $170,000.

3. DVCPRO HD, is Panasonic’s 4:2:2 high-def format. It records at 100 Mb/s and is noteworthy because it not only records on tape, but on P2 cards similar to what digital still cameras use. This is the high-definition format used by the speed boat reality television series, “Liquid Extremes.”

One camera, the AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD has a variable frame rate from 4-60 frame per second in one frame increments. It uses three 1280 x 720 pixel CCD’s and sells for $45,000.

At the bottom end of this format is the AG-HVX200P which handles 1080/60i, 1080/24p, 1080/24p, 1080/30p, 720p. It records in both HD and SD at DV-50 which is a true standard definition 4:2:2 format or in DVC Pro. The aspect ratio can be switched from 16:9 to 4:3. The 3 CCD’s are only 1/3″ so the camera is not designed for shoulder mounting, but it’s a very cost effective way to break into a high end HD format. The AG-HVX200P comes with a Leica lens and lists for only $5,995

4. The most recent HD camera buzz is around the RED Digital Cinema, introduced at the 2006 National Association of Broadcasters’ convention. It’s said to mark a sweet spot between performance and prices. The camera’s proprietary CMOS image sensor records 12 million pixels at up to 60fps with an exceptional dynamic range of 66 dB. It’s considered a true 4K HD camcorder, recording 4520 scan lines of data per frame in the native RAW format, a massive upgrade from the 525 lines of standard definition television. Red’s advocates include Director Steven Soderbergh of “Traffic” and “Ocean’s Eleven” and director Peter Jackson of “The Lord of the Rings” who shot a 12-minute short to demonstrate the camera’s capabilities. These units are only now starting to ship from a long waiting list. Its price is only $17,500